|Rafting Down the
By Roy L. Osborne and Logan Osborne
people in Scott County who remember the days of
rafting on the Clinch,
but for the sake of those who shall yet crave to
the days when we were much more in the backwoods than
we are today, we
write this story.
Most of the
timber in Scott County was gone before a good market
existed. Perhaps a
better price should have been paid for the logs that
went down the
The rafting began about 1880 and continued until the
completion of the
C. C. & O. Railroad about 1909. It would be
difficult to estimate
the millions of feet of the County's
timber that was sold in this way.
Mr. James Brickey from near Ft. Blackmore bought all
the timber on the
ridges along the Clinch from Ft. Blackmore to
Russell County. He paid
to two dollars a tree. The best walnut brought two
dollars. This timber
was easily logged. Much of it could be rolled or
skidded with little
to the edge of the river. Mr. Brickey used two or
three yokes of oxen
the entire boundary. The oxen cost about $65.00 a
yoke. A good driver
a wage of fifty cents or $10 a month.
was later cut that had to be hauled a short distance
to the river. All
the timber close to the river was gone when the
Railroad was built. One
large boundary in the mountain above Ft. Blackmore
was manufactured at
Ft. Blackmore after the completion of the C. C.
& O. and earlier
that another large set was sawed out at the base of
the High Knob on
now begin in this area with the organization of the
Forest and we hope to see a Civilian Conservation
on the Scott County side of this Forest.
raft making will soon be a lost art. It has probably
served its day and
will never be revived. Yet it was an economical way
to get the timber
Much of the
was delivered at Clinchport to men who tooled it on
down the Clinch
the Tennessee to Chattanooga or Clinton. A crew of
ten men brought the
rafts through the rough waters from Dungannon on the
Here men were turned back and still others as the
work became less
made up of 150 to 250 logs and contained 50 to 100
thousand feet. The
were started as single rafts, but after the worst
water was passed two
were tied together to form a double raft. These
rafts were steered by
oars. A nice slim chestnut of sufficient strength
was used for an oar
This tem was 25 to 35 feet in length. The paddle was
a well seasoned 16
foot board, three inches thick at the end which
fastened in the stem,
shaved to a thin edge to make it "flip" as the
The logs were
together with young hickory saplings. These were
split in the center.
first spikes were tried, but these were not
satisfactory. Wooden pins
used for successful rafting. The holes for these
pegs were made with a
two-inch auger through the binder and
one-and-one-half inch auger into
not always brought through the rough waters, such as
the Slate Cliff
the Blue Cliff above Dungannon, Stoney Creek Shoals
at Ft. Blackmore,
Ervins Bend at Hill Station. Many rafts were torn up
in these places,
most of the logs lost. Men were hurt and some
killed. Hop Duncan was
while trying to swim out of a wreck in the Stoney
was tied up until the tide went down and was
repaired to be floated
on the next ride. This was sometimes the following
winter. These wrecks
were relatively few, for these expert steermen knew
the tricks of the
and when the tide was high enough and not too high.
When the tide was
high they would have to tie up and wait.
through the bad waters were P. H. Osborne, B. F.
Kenny Ramey, and David Sluss. These men would direct
the hazardous work
of drifting the rafts out of Russell County and
upper Scott County.
Catron, John Church, Isaac Horton, and Tom Neff were
steersmen on to
This work had
be done in the cold weather of winter and spring.
Hardy young men were
required. Many times they would have to swim out
through floating ice
spend the night around a camp fire. Food was stored
on the raft and
there on a hearth of mud and stone or sometimes in
small cook stoves.
bunk was built in the middle of the raft, and straw
was carried for
two dollars a day and other hands one dollar a day.
The round trip to
took about a week. The trip on into Tennessee was
slower and usually
about a month.
We wish it
possible to collect the stories of the experiences
of the men who rode
these rafts through the rapids of the Clinch. Z. D.
had all his money tied up in two large rafts. These
300 feet long. P. H. Osborne was steering one and
David Sluss the
The rafts started out from Sandy Point at Dungannon.
Each raft was
about $1,000. Bill Bryant, Will Collins, Evan
Collins, Hoge Osborne,
Osborne, and Loge Osborne were on the two rafts. The
rafts were very
and they had been forced to tie up frequently. The
cable had worn out.
through and were nearing Clinchport.
oars were broken in an effort to tie, and the ropes
would not hold. It
looked like the rafts would be lost by running into
the railroad bridge
at Clinchport. Three attempts were made to tie. P.
H. Osborne and Z. D.
Collins broke a boat loose nearby and paddled with
all their strength
to get a rope. They overtook two men from
Chattanooga, who had two
Collins said, "I cannot tie my rafts and all I have
will be lost. Loan
me a rope for a few minutes." "We will do no such
G___ D___ thing. We
taking care of ourselves; you do the same." "Sell me
a rope," Collins
"Nothing shaking," the other replied. "Now you get
to hell off here
I cut your head off with this axe." "You put that
axe down or I will
you," Collins said, "if you will not loan nor sell
we will take a
At that a fight started and P. H. Osborne untied a
rope and they
the river with cursing and threats from
owner. The raft which was now a double raft, was
tied up just in time
keep it out of the bridge. The rope was returned and
the owner forced
take pay for its use.
Ramey was steering a raft for Jim Marcum and Marion
P. H. Osborne, and Charlie Wheatley were on the bow.
Kenny Ramey were on the stern. The raft was loaded
and cut loose at
Porter's at Sinking Shoals. A good start was made.
But Kenny saw a
on the bank and began "hollering" to him. The friend
was Lonzo Semones.
This joking and fun took the steersman's eye and
mind off the job.
Shoal Cliff was just ahead. When Kenny was aroused
to the danger he
the command, "Quick, up! Lay her over to the right."
It was too late.
raft hit the cliff, tore off the oars and ripped the
binder back half
Many of the best logs were lost. On down through the
with loose logs rolling under the raft, men
screaming, but not daring
leave the wreck. What was left reached an eddy and
was tied up, and
for the next tide.
made on many a tide in the roughest weather down the
Clinch. And many
the stories that these old rafters still tell to the
around the winter fires, while tides come, but the
rafts float no more.
The oxen are
no more in the woods, the powerful truck hauls the
logs to the market,
or to the railroad station. The railroad came and
had its day like the
rafting tide, and now the good highway and the
auto-truck. But nothing
today compares in adventure to those days of logging
with the oxen and
the floating of the mighty rafts down
of man's progress is the history of transportation.
But do we have
men with it all? Have we in Scott County builded men
as we have builded
roads and school houses?
depends not upon these material things but upon the
character of men.
the shadow of the monument of material success we
seek a way out.
too much cotton, too much wheat, too many hogs, too
much clothing in
too much money in the banks, too many school houses
and teachers, too
churches and preachers, too many colleges. The
wealth of plain and
of soil and mine are still here. Yet we lost
something and that loss
brought us down into the trough of the greatest
"depression" in the
of our country. What had we lost? We had lost that
quality that enables
men to trust each other.
From the Gate
Herald, clippings in the possession of E. B.
of Southwest Virginia, published by Southwest
Publication 8, June 1974, pages 1 to